Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Swine Flu Threat Has Flown -- Maybe

We're still keeping our fingers crossed, but it's beginning to look like the Great Swine Flu Pandemic is petering out.

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2009 at 8:28 AM

We're still keeping our fingers crossed, but it's beginning to look like the Great Swine Flu Pandemic is petering out.


The Bulletin reports today that a Bend couple who recently returned from Puerto Vallarta came down with runny noses, itchy eyes and coughing. They're being tested for swine flu and meanwhile have voluntarily quarantined themselves in their home.

From The Eye's personal experience with the flu, though, it sounds like they have some other, milder virus. Their symptoms developed gradually, whereas the flu hits you like an express train.

In any case, the swine flu - or H1N1, as the scientists call it - is spreading all over the world and it's sure to hit Bend sooner or later. The good news is that it doesn't seem to be any worse than plain old seasonal flu, which can make you wish you were dead but rarely actually kills you.

Now the post-mortems begin - the after-the-fact critiques of how the government and the news media handled the flu outbreak. Predictably, some of the same Obamaphobes who were attacking the administration a week ago for not closing the border with Mexico are now criticizing it for over-reacting to what turned out to be not much of a threat after all.

To his credit, Larry Huss on the conservative blog The Oregon Catalyst gives Obama props  for keeping a cool head. "In fact, the only politician that seemed to react appropriately was Pres. Obama himself, who repeatedly called for calm and a reasonable period to see what developed," Huss writes.

Huss accuses the media of blowing the flu story out of proportion, and The Eye has to agree with him there too - although with the qualification that on stories like this one journalists are damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they downplay the danger they're accused of failing to adequately warn the public; if they play it up, they're accused of spreading hysteria.

What irked us the most about the media's flu coverage was the endless repetition of what was either obvious or hopelessly impractical advice about how to avoid the disease: Wash your hands 70 or 80 times a day, don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth, and keep at least six feet away from anybody who might have the flu. (Try following that last rule in a busy airport.)

Speaking of air travel, The Eye is scheduled to fly to Hawaii next month and - unless there's a sudden dramatic worsening of the flu situation - we don't plan to take any special health precautions other than dosing ourselves with Airborne for a couple of days before the flight, which we do whenever we fly anyway.

The long-term danger that health officials worry about is that today's relatively harmless swine flu could mutate over the summer and re-emerge next fall in a far deadlier form -- as happened with the terrible flu pandemic of 1918.

But what the hell - if the flu doesn't kill us something else will eventually. And according to the Mayan calendar the world will end in three years anyway.

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